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Political Ideas – Charlotte Perkins Gilman

1. Biographical Context

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In this module we offer some biographical context for the following discussion of Charlotte Perkins Gilman, focusing in particular on: (i) Gilman’s key works, especially The Yellow Wallpaper (1892) and Women and Economics (1898); (ii) some historical context for Gilman’s life and works, focusing especially on industrialisation and class inequality in the US during Gilman’s lifetime; (iii) the relative status of men and women during Gilman’s lifetime; (iv) Gilman’s family, upbringing, and later marriages.


In this course, Dr Rachel Nolan (Manchester Metropolitan University) considers the life and works of Charlotte Perkins Gilman. In the first module, we offer some biographical context for the following discussion of Charlotte Perkins Gilman, as well as an outline of her key works and ideas. Then, in the second module, we explore the concept of socialism as it relates to Gilman’s thought, as well as thinking about her nationalist views. In the third module, we add depth to the discussion by considering Gilman not only as a feminist, but as a specifically socialist feminist. In the fourth module, we consider the role of Darwinism in American political and sociological thought during Gilman’s lifetime, and highlight Gilman’s “reform Darwinist” understanding of patriarchy as an evolutionary phase and her arguments for an expansion in the rights of women on this basis. In the fifth module, we consider how a range of feminists (including Simone de Beauvoir and bell hooks) have built upon, responded to, and critiqued Gilman’s thought. Finally, in the sixth module, we conclude by recapping Gilman’s key arguments for gender equality, and reflecting on the extent to which these arguments remain relevant today. This course is particularly relevant to the Non-Core Political Ideas: Feminism section of the AQA and Edexcel A Level Politics specifications.


Dr Rachel Nolan is a Lecturer in American Literature at Manchester Metropolitan University. She previously taught at the University of Manchester and Pennsylvania State University. She recently edited the Broadview critical edition of Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s 1898 feminist treatise 'Women and Economics', and her research examines the practices and possibilities of women’s professional activities in late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century America.

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APA style

Nolan, R. (2022, September 15). Political Ideas – Charlotte Perkins Gilman - Biographical Context [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Nolan, R. "Political Ideas – Charlotte Perkins Gilman – Biographical Context." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 15 Sep 2022,

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